Port Coquitlam mosque to welcome Syrian refugees

Islamic Society of BC volunteers will also help other agencies and churches who are supporting refugees

As B.C. welcomes Syrian refugees, a local mosque hopes to help them get settled.

The Masjid Al-Hidaya and Islamic Cultural Centre in Port Coquitlam is getting ready to host up to 25 families per intake as Canada ramps up to take in 25,000 refugees over the next few months.

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"Most people understand the suffering. When people see suffering, conscience is mobilized," — Mohammed Khan

"We want to house them, feed them, comfort them and envelop them in a community of comfort," said Mohammed Khan, who is helping organize the reception program.

While it is not known yet how many Syrian refugees will be resettled in the Tri-Cities as the Canadian response is still in the beginning stages, (early numbers suggest just 16 people are coming here, out of 200, and most of them are privately sponsored), the PoCo mosque will be available for whatever the need.

For example, Khan is approaching local businesses to secure discounts for bulk buying of toiletries and other products that may be required, and is reaching out to the mosque's congregation and the rest of the community for new blankets, outerwear in good condition, food and cash.

"Right now, we don't know what all the needs are," Khan said, noting cash donations are likely to be the most practical way of giving and the mosque, run buy the Islamic Society of BC, can provide charitable tax receipts.

Khan said many of the society's approximately 3,000 members have been distressed by news of civil war in Syria and the millions of displaced individuals, many of them children. They want to help by providing temporary accommodation and getting individual refugees or refugee families oriented to their new community, and providing access to services, skills development and job search.

As well, they will offer informal language help, although not replacing formal ESL programs, Khan said.

One important area of support that is needed is the services of doctors and dentists who can provide checkups and treatment.

Khan is confident Tri-Cities residents will put out the welcome mat.

"Most people understand the suffering," he said. "When people see suffering, conscience is mobilized."

In addition to providing its own reception program, the PoCo mosque will work with other organizations, such as local churches, that are also working with refugees. Among the services the society can provide, Khan said, are translation services, menu planning and volunteer support.

• For more information or to contribute, email Masjid Al-Hidaya at masjid.alhidaya@gmail.com.

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